The rendezvous was set. Sunday night in the city I would meet The Indian – the ex who’s been texting and wanting to see me. Of course deep down I was hoping this was our second chance; that we would resume the lovely relationship I had so missed. But, for now, and maybe to protect my heart, I thought of this as a pure sexual fix. My God! I’ve been so excited. I can’t tell you how long it’s been. I just want to fast forward the clock.
This morning I showered. Shaved my legs. My bikini line. Used my most expensive shampoo. Sweet smelling body lotion. Juicy Couture perfume. Hair blown out. Hair straightened. Eye shadow. Eye liner. Mascara. Blush. Lip gloss. Butterflies churn my stomach as I look in the mirror and say Not bad kid.
I took out barely enough money from my dwindled down bank account to pay for my LIRR ticket to the city. She screams from downstairs, “Are you ready? Your father’s waiting in the car.”
The whole family will ride together to take the 12-minute ride to the Long Island Rail Road station.
My mother is running around like crazy trying to find her wallet. My father honks from outside. “I’m coming!” I shout. I grab my overnight bag, run downstairs, put Vito’s food out. “Now Mom, don’t forget. No human food.” She shakes her head “no” so wildly I think she’s going to turn into that guy from “Beetlejuice.” “No way,” she says.
I pick up my bag. “Oh shit, one second. Where’s my phone?” I run back up to my bedroom to grab it. The light is blinking. And here is where time slows down the way time slows down in a car accident.
He texted me: I’ve been thinking and I don’t think it’s a good idea to see each other. Don’t think I can do ‘casual.’
My heart is an elevator with no bottom. I fall and fall and fall and fall. I don’t hear my mother screaming from downstairs. I’m frozen in my bedroom the way the photographs, soccer trophies and stuffed animals are frozen in time.
My mother comes in my room, ready to scream at me for holding them up. “Oh my god. What’s wrong?”
Sometimes you think you’re a strong person, but one letdown too many, and you start to crack. I start sobbing.
“What Myra? I can’t understand you unless you speak.” (I remember hearing this when I was six).
“He doesn’t want to see me tonight.”
She sighs. “Myra, I don’t know what to tell you.” She sits down on the bed next to me.
“You think he’s gay?”
“You didn’t sleep with him, did you? You can’t sleep with guys too soon. They’ll think you’re loose. Loosey goosey. They don’t want to buy the milk if they already have the cow.”
Then, my father storms in the bedroom. “What’s the hold up, already? I’m sitting in the car waiting, picking my nose…”
My mother cuts in “He doesn’t want her to come.”
“So what are you trying to say? You want me to turn the car off?”
“YES, IVAN. YES.”
“Oh madon.” When you live on Long Island, speaking Italian or Jewish is interchangeable, regardless of your ethnicity.
He turns the car off and comes back, standing in my room.
I start sobbing again, “I really loved him. He had such good grammar.”
My mother screams, “Ivan, will you do something?!”
“What do you want me to do?” he screams to the nosebleed section.
“Go get her some cookies or something,” she replies.
“She is NOT having my Mallomars!
He disappears. My mother holds my hand. It makes me cry harder. “Times have changed so much,” she says, “I don’t understand this guy’s problem. Why did he ask you out? Did he know you were coming from Long Island?”
My father comes back in holding a “buffet” plate of cookies. Only one Mallomar on the plate, five Chips Ahoys and a few Fig Newtons. The Mallomar is slightly hidden under another cookie, so it won’t be too easily seen and/or eaten.
I mumble, “Thanks, but I don’t want any.”
“What did I go all the way downstairs for?!”
My mom retorts “Maybe you’ll lose some of that fat off your big stomach.”
“Maybe you’ll lose some of that fat off your big stomach. Hee hee hee hee,” he laughs sardonically like a Geisha girl.
It all makes me cry harder. My Dad looks at me. I wonder if he really loves me or feels bad for me. Or is he just happy I didn’t eat the Mallomar?
“Come on, let’s go,” he says. My Mom is annoyed, “Where are we going now?”
He imitates her again, “Where are we going now? We’re going to the movies.”
My Mom sweetly asks me, “You wanna go to the movies, honey?”
I nod yes.
“Come on, enough of this crying. I feel like I’m watching ‘Steel Magnolias.’ Get in the car. YA HA, YA HA,” he screams like a cowboy.
We get in the car and drive off. My father likes to drive fast. He rolls down the window and yells, “YA HA, YA HA,” then turns to us, laughing. If I were in a different mood, I’d say What mental hospital did you escape from?
We get to the Cineplex. I can’t even tell you what movie we’re watching. My mind is elsewhere. I can tell you that afterwards we go from theater to theater, because my Dad likes to get away with shit. He doesn’t even care if he misses half of the movie. As long as he can say he got away with something for free. So, like rebellious teenagers, my mother, father, and I sneak from theater to theater seeing lots of partial movies for free. Until we get caught by the manager who makes a scene and tells my father not to come back.
We get back home, and I let Vito into the backyard. He does laps around the perimeter, and I just stand in the middle of the patio, staring at the trees, which used to be so much shorter. I am silent. Still. Breathing in the crisp, fresh Long Island air and trying to connect with something bigger than I can understand.
The thing about love is that even if it’s the “wrong” person for you, it gives you a reason to wake up in the morning. A reason to smile. It somehow makes your life feel more worthwhile.
But, part of maturity is knowing when to say “no” to something that is hurting you. It is seeing the bigger picture rather than acting on what feels good in the short term. It is also being grateful for the good things you DO have, however odd or mutated they appear to be (like your parents). I think about my Dad making me a plate of cookies…and then getting kicked out of the movie theater. I think about my Mom warning me not to be ‘loosey goosey,’ but then holding my hand all night. I may not have a lot, but I’ve got something.
I take a deep inhale and then say aloud to the trees, “I’ve got my legs. I’ve got my dance skills. I’ve got killer Nikes. I’ve got friends. I’ve got music. I’ve got Miss Piggy sheets, and I’ve got Vito.” I feel pretty lucky.
I guess I’m finally growing up.